Playing Indie Video Games at the Museum of the Moving Image

January 28, 2014 | Marina Galperina

“Video games exhibits kind of suck if you can’t actually play the games. That’s core to putting them in a show,” Associate Curator of Digital Media Jason Eppink tells ANIMAL. All of the “Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games,” now on view at the Museum of the Moving Image, are playable and we played most of them, before dashing downstairs to see the SlashDash and Killer Queen Arcade tournament.

You could potentially spend hours in the darkened, third floor gallery of the museum, jumping from terminal to terminal and building to building (Shout out Canabalt!) There are games for Play Station, PC, iOS and arcade, games from New York, Portland, Czech Republic and Argentina — Alien Hominid, Everyday Shooter, Minecraft, Passage, The Path, Machinarium, the mesmerizing Flower (pictured above), the time-bending Braid, and the upcoming Quadrilateral Cowboy, which redefines “video game editing” with surreal “hacked” navigation from scene to scene. These are landmark independent video games from the last decade — the games that defined the genre — as well as winners of the last IndieCade International Festival. These recently emerged indie games — like Kentucky Route Zero and Gone Home, which ANIMAL profiled in our Game Plan feature — may not have multi-million dollar blockbuster budgets, but they have cult audiences of passionate fans and a place in an actual museum exhibition.


“Indie games have flourished partly because of the internet as a distribution and crowd funding platform. It’s changed the way games are made and the way they find their audience,” Eppink explains. There are also the benifits of new, relatively low cost tools rivaling the hardware of yester-games. “This lowers the barrier of access to making games.” It also allows for greater, more artistic experimentation — technical, aesthetic and social.

“One of the interesting themes of this year’s winners is that many of them are local multi-player games,” Eppink excitedly adds. “They’re thinking about how people are playing games together in the same physical space, games designed to amplify everything that happens there.”

SpaceTeam is one of those games. The table of players shouting semi-sensical instructions at each other and tweaking and shaking their iOS space ship panels connected to each other via WiFi or BlueTooth from a few feet away is exciting, in a very intimate and frustrating way, as opposed to gamers in a larger, almost infinite internet network. After all, you’re within tangible high-fiving and kicking distance. “Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games,” Dec 14 – Mar 2, Museum of the Moving Image, Queens (Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)